Alina Diaz, managing director of MSLGROUP’s consumer practice, talks with Doug Simon about the changes COVID has made to how PR pros communicate consumer stories on the latest “PRs Top Pros Talk” video interview.

“The way that we approach clients and how we engage with media changed,” Diaz says. “We went from partial virtual interaction to 100 percent.”

In that 100 percent virtual world, she tells Simon, communicators “were challenged to tell stories when events were not happening. We had to pivot to engage media on virtual events.”

A lot of the strategies that PR pros used to tell those stories are likely to hang on even in a post-COVID marketplace. “I'm encouraging our teams and our clients to continue with the practices that we learned—the digitalization of engagement, the digitalization of how we contact media, how we engage with consumers in a way that we can leverage virtual reality,” Diaz says.

But she also notes that consumers are missing “the real human touch… we want to bring that back.” That includes “things that actually people can touch,” as well as bringing back “events and interactions in real time, in real life.”

The accelerated pace of communications is another big change she mentions. “There's less time to address a complaint or a consumer reaction to a potential news,” she says. “So reacting in real time is very critical.”

When it comes to bringing employees back to the office, she says that flexibility is key. “Establishing one blanket rule for an entire company or even for an entire team is going to be really hard.”

Communicators also need to be “more nimble in our planning process” to succeed in the changed marketplace. “We cannot count on dates and events and things happening exactly the way that we had projected them to happen. So we need to have a contingency plan.”

Finally, she stresses the importance of listening to young people and giving them a bigger seat at the table. “We've all learned that what works for one generation doesn't necessarily work for the other generation and young people, Gen Z’ers that are entry level right now in the PR industry are the ones that have been living in the 100 percent virtual world. So we all have to take a little bit of a lesson from young people and say, how do I do this better?”

View all of the interviews in the “PR's Top Pros Talk” series. Subscribe to get notified when new episodes are available.

Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]

D S Simon Media helps clients get their stories on television through satellite media tours and by producing and distributing content to the media. The company also produces live social media events.